Gordon Brown – 2005 Speech at Opening of Wolverhampton Learning Quarter

The speech made by Gordon Brown, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in Wolverhampton on 28 February 2005.

I am delighted to be here today to open a major path breaking initiative in education which will be viewed with interest from around the whole of the United Kingdom.

The Wolverhampton Learning Quarter is a pioneering development for education in our country.

Adult education and further education brought together – creating a one stop learning centre for all men and women in Wolverhampton that is already raising the numbers of adults training and acquiring skills.

And I can confirm that it is our ambition that nationally we follow the lead you in Wolverhampton are today giving the country.

The higher ambition for the Britain of the future is

that every young person has training throughout their teenage years;
that every adult without skills has the guarantee of training for basic qualifications in work; and
that – modelled on this initiative here in Wolverhampton – every town and city has its one stop learning centre.

Here in Wolverhampton you have recognised that for Britain to have the future skills that we need, all agencies must come together and all skills must be catered for.

You are showing that Wolverhampton works best when Wolverhampton works together.

And – building on the excellent work already being done by Wolverhampton College and the Adult Education Service – the new Learning Quarter is

helping nearly 500 students with specialist vocational training to prepare for service sector jobs;
making available courses from health to hairdressing, tourism to textiles, beauty to baking;
providing genuine lifelong learning – for people of all ages and from all walks of life; and
playing a key role in the regeneration of the city.

And we can already see the success you are having. Since the Learning Quarter started taking in students, there has been a 50 per cent growth in learners at the college.

The next challenge for Britain – and for every advanced industrial nation – is to meet and master the next stage of global economic change, and the rise of China, India and Asia as manufacturing and industrial powers.

And the central issue of the Budget and our programme for the next five years – indeed the central issue of the coming decade – will be how Britain and the British people can be best prepared, equipped and ready to meet today’s global economic and educational challenges, and how to build the best long term future for the British economy and for Britain’s hard working families.

A few days ago in China, my eyes were opened to the dramatic challenge that Britain faces from emerging economies.

We cannot ignore or succumb to the challenge from China and Asia – but must seize it.

China and India are not only producing an ever higher share of the world’s manufactured goods from electronic goods to clothes, they are is also upgrading their skills at an astonishing pace – producing between them 4 million trained graduates every year.

120,000 of India and China’s new graduates are computer science graduates, compared to just 18,000 in Britain.
And in China alone there are nearly 300,000 new science and engineering graduates each year, compared to 100,000 in Britain.

So seizing the China challenge means that we in Britain simply cannot afford to waste the potential of any young person or discard the talents of any adult.

And we must help men and women make the transition from low skilled to higher skilled work.

This requires a transformation in the way we think: using not some of the talents of some of the people but all of the skills of all of the people.

And making education for the majority no longer a one-off pass-fail event between the ages of 5 and 16 but making it lifelong, permanent and recurrent: making it about encouraging adults in any course and at any age they want to study.

Compared to 1997 1.2 million more adults a year now participate in learning; 750,000 people are now benefiting from basic skills training; around 250,000 young people are participating in apprenticeships today compared with 87,500 in 1997.

And since 1997 long term youth unemployment – once 350,000 in the mid eighties – has been reduced to 6,000, an average of less than 10 per constituency.

But I can tell you our aim is not to congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved but to consider what we now can achieve.

We are determined to continue to take the tough decisions necessary – in our schools, colleges, and workplaces – to ensure that more people to achieve their full potential and play their full part in their communities.

That is why – alongside the new deal for jobs, we want a new deal for skills.

That is why we will, in the next Parliament, offer every adult without skills, in or out of work, not only a skills check up, but also free training provision to achieve Level Two qualifications.

It is why we also plan for the first time a national employer training programme – with – in every area of the country and in small and medium as well as large businesses –

employers recognising their responsibilities to offer time off;
employees recognising their responsibilities to take up the opportunities; and
government recognising our responsibility to fund the training.

And it is why, building on reforms already undertaken, and following the Tomlinson review, we are putting in place high quality options for vocational education throughout the secondary curriculum.

And we know that we must do more.

So our Government wants teachers to be encouraged to use their teaching skills in all areas of Britain.

And we want, modelled on experience in the United States, to look at the case for a “Teach for Britain” programme with new incentives for teachers to teach in all the high unemployment areas of Britain.

We want a one stop centre for adult learning in every community.

And we also want to push up quality and standards in further education, with new incentives for institutions to improve the standards of lecturers.

And this is essential because 80 per cent of the 2015 workforce has already left school and is today in the world of work and we must offer the chance to upgrade skills to every adult already in the workforce.

And I can tell you today that our promise to the British people is that for the first time in Britain not just some but every teenager after the age of 16 will have the right to education, training or work.

And in the next Parliament

no teenager should ever again be unemployed;
for the first time in Britain every adult will have the guarantee of training for work; and
no adult will ever again be denied the chance of basic skills for work.
Our consistent continued fiscal discipline – yesterday, today and tomorrow – is not only the real key to meeting our fiscal rules but also to entrenching the economic stability that is the foundation of prosperity.

It is also right that mothers and fathers can balance work and family life. That is why we have extended opportunities for maternity benefit and maternity leave, made it easier for employees to have flexible working arrangements and improved the quality and quantity of affordable and available child care.

And Patricia Hewitt and Ruth Kelly are today announcing new proposals to ensure greater flexibility in the workplace to allow mothers and fathers to balance the needs of their family with the demands of working life.

Here in Wolverhampton the Learning Quarter will play an essential frontline role in delivering better skills for people.

So it is a great honour to be here today to declare your new building open and to wish you the very best in all your work and study in the future.